Review: Squared Away by Annabeth Albert

Squared Away
(Out of Uniform #5)
by Annabeth Albert
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication date: April 16, 2018
Genre: M/M Romance

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.




Squared Away is a super adorable and emotional story about friendship, family, loyalty, and heartbreak. I found myself crying a few times during the story because these characters just go through so much. Between losing their family member, having their whole lives and futures turned on their side when they find out they are the guardians on these three adorable children, navigating their feelings for each other, there was just never a moment for these two to just breathe.

Mark is a Navy SEAL medic who has seen a lot throughout his career. The guys hold him up to such high standards and rely on him to pull them through some rough and life-threatening situations. However, none of that can prepare him for the loss of his sister, the pressure of caring for children he doesn’t even know, or dealing with his conflicting feelings for Isaiah. Basically, he finds himself treading uncharted waters. Mark was a character that was both frustrating and endearing. Due to his job, he doesn’t come home a lot. So, he’s not familiar with the kids like Isaiah is. It takes him a minute to realize that they are not like his guys on base, they don’t respond to commands, nor do they always fall in line. It takes him a while to get his bearings, but thankfully for him, Isaiah is there to help out. What was frustrating was his relationship with Isaiah. I get that he has some hang ups with intimacy, and it’s not because he had his heart-broken. Mark is grey ace, meaning he doesn’t always have sexual feelings or desires like most people do. He can go through the motions of kissing, but he’s disconnected from it all. He can watch porn, and it’s as if he just watching an action movie. Yet, the more he is around Isaiah, the more he finds himself responding to him and wanting to reach out for intimacy. It freaks him out because he’s never felt this way in his life. He worries that in starting something with Isaiah (someone who he knows used to have a serious crush on him), that he will be leading him on and setting him up for disappointment down the road when Isaiah wants more. He’s also conflicted because Isaiah is a guy, and Mark is a Navy SEAL. While the military may be okay with gay couples, it doesn’t mean that his team will be cool with it. Mark just had so much going on in his head it was a wonder he didn’t get himself killed while out training.

Isaiah was an amazing guy. The moment he gets the news about his cousin and his cousin’s wife, he immediately goes to the house to care for the children. Since he refuses to have the burial services until Mark is contacted and brought home, he spends a week juggling three kids while the turmoil of the situation looms over his head. By the time Mark comes into the picture, he is exhausted, and ready to just break down. When the news comes that Mark’s sister’s will stated him as the guardian of the kids, and Isaiah’s cousin listed Isaiah as the guardian, they are shocked. Isaiah immediately starts planning everything he needs to change in his life from his living situation, his job, even his lifestyle. Then there was the whole thing with Mark and their growing relationship. Even though he’s got so much on his plate, he is so understanding and patient with Mark. He understands that all this is new for him, and that he has a hard time connecting with others, and he takes it slow with him. Watching these two interact and slowly build up their romance was kind of beautiful.

Not only is this an amazing romance, but it deals with grief and all the emotions and things associated with losing a loved one. There’s pain at the loss, anger for the fact that she drove drunk that night, uncertainty about the kids, worry over CPS taking the kids away while they find them a more suitable home, and the need to have normalcy when nothing is normal. There was just so much that these characters go through, and yet they have to remain strong and put on a brave face for the kids. The kids, who are too young to fully grasp what happened to their parents. This story was just so emotional that it was hard not to find myself invested in these characters lives.

This is the second story in the Out of Uniform series that I’ve read, and it’s the second one that I’ve immensely enjoyed. I love that the author makes the story feel so real. She’s able to pull the reader in and make you feel like you are part of the story. You feel their emotions, their turmoil, and it’s so hard to not get wrapped up in it all. I really need to go back and read the other books in the series, because if the two I’ve already read are anything to go on, they are going to give me a book hangover.


Favorite quote…

“Trusting Isaiah when it came to sex was easy. Trusting him with his heart and his future was a whole different matter.”



Previous reviews from Our of Uniform…
Wheels Up




16 Thoughts on “Review: Squared Away by Annabeth Albert

  1. A possible book hangover? Ok, I haven’t tried any of the books in this series yet but, if the story feels so real, how can I resist? Especially considering this is a genre I’m always up for right because it usually gives me all the feels! <3 Thanks for reviewing this, Kristin 🙂

  2. I’m so glad you loved this one. I did too – my review will be up in April sometime. I love this whole series so hopefully you can go back and read all the ones you’ve missed.


    • I still need to go back and read the previous ones. I’ve never read this author before, but I love her writing style. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on this one.

  3. This sounds pretty intense!

  4. This series is new to me but I do love emotional stories so it’s right up my alley. Thanks for your great review. Glad you loved it.

  5. I know a few of yall who just loved this one. I’ll have to keep it in mind for recommendations 🙂

    • I think because there’s so much emotion. It’s not just about a guy realizing his sexuality, or a sort of second chance romance… there was just so much emotion to it. I definitely recommend putting it on your list to check out. It is well worth the read.

  6. This sounds super emotional. I have never read Annabeth Albert but she’s quite popular among MM authors. I need to try her! I think there was a sign up for this one in my mail…maybe I can squeeze it in sometime in April.
    Wonderful review!

  7. I’ve been in a M/M romance lately and this post of yours couldn’t have been perfect! I’ve only read 1 book in this genre so far and it’s been a long time ago. Hmmm, I guess it’s high time that I should start picking up one or maybe two (or maybe five? hehe) one of these days. Awesome review Kristin. Added this one to my list!

    • Thanks, Vanessa! I have only read two books from this author, but I really like the characters she creates. This one in particular was an all around great read. I hope you give it a shot. 🙂

  8. I liked this one a lot too. And Isaiah was awesome. Apollo and Dylan will always be my favorite though.

    Karen @ For What It’s Worth

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